The walk to my best friend’s house was severely hampered by the Trisdale boys’ attitude toward my being on the street in front of their house. My task was follow my grandmother’s instructions to “ go straight to Charlotte’s house” in spite of my fear of being stalked and taunted by the quintet of raucous bullies living in the big old house on the corner. The trip was always punctuated with Momie Nell’s (my grandmother) instruction to be home exactly at 5 o’clock, no excuses excepted.
Looking back I realize that sometimes my little eight (8) year old mind could be quite creative in managing to conquer the foe, other times my mind was simply on other things and I would venture into the Trisdale’s territory without realizing it.
I left my corner and checked out each of the neighbors as I went the first straightaway, rounding the “Cotton Corner” I had blue skies ahead and sidewalk squares to count. One, two, three: the limit for one square and on to the next. The houses went by one by one, the Boyd’s, the new folks, hadn’t met them yet, wonder if they had any kids? The Scott’s, this was Randolph Scott’s sister, wonder if he was there or doing a movie?
In childlike innocent play, I headed on down the street checking out whatever caught my attention while I counted. This particular day “the boys” were prowling the front porch just waiting for an offender to cross the crack in the sidewalk, which coincided with their property line, but I hadn’t noticed yet.
I counted one, two three, next square, which I discovered contained the imposing presence of the five (5) large Trisdale boys. I stepped, they stepped. Simultaneously, I was jerked back to reality and my heartbeat thumped the ground.
Somehow I managed to keep counting and putting one foot in front of the other, I can’t be certain but am reasonably sure the pace increased. Yea, I made it all the way to the corner and across the street as my ears heard music, “you boys come back here on the porch now and leave that young lady alone”.
Charlotte and I played and the time came for me to make it back home. I left her house with confidence that I would be wiser and smarter on the way back home. But Bundy T. knew the time of my departure and had decided that he would make the way torturous no matter which route I took.
Bundy’s hands whipping at his ears would have been funny if it were not step- in-step directly in front of me and accompanied by chants of “ Na na I will get you”. I hoped eventually he would reach the limits on his territory. How I longed to hear his Mom call as she usually did when she realized that any of “the boys” were beyond her reach. “BBUUNDDYY TTRRIISSDDAALLEE come home, NOW”.
However, this time it did not come and I endured the taunting all the way to the Cotton Corner. By that time I got there I was a shaky mess, fearing he really would get me, not being exactly sure what that meant.
Momie Nell’s agenda took first precedence as I arrived home a few minutes late, but then I laid a few choice words on her about the Trisdale boys and particularly about Bundy. I was pushed into choosing not to remember those words but rather making the choice to remember the words of Momie Nell.
“You will go back down and apologize for what you just said about those boys and particularly about Bundy and you will tell me when you have done it and what happens and remember “ “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.
I could not believe her. I had to go and apologize to the bullies when they started it, and how was I going to say something nice. I would really rather just not say “anything at all” but she had said it and I knew it must be done. So I carefully planned the day and the hour to execute this pivotal point in my life.
My plan included giving the whole thing a few days to mellow out and give my knees a chance to quit shaking.
Momie Nell made no inquiries as to the status of my apology but I knew by the look of anticipation on her face my days of leeway were limited. Out of respect for her authority I knew this task must be accomplished in a timely manner and with attention to the details she had placed upon it.
Not wanting to bring up the matter until it was completed or to ask to many questions, I figured I had first better determine what could I say that was “nice” and yet contained the truth. I knew a few nice words but thank you and please was all I could remember under this stressful situation. It seemed like I had reached my limit and I could not see where either of those words appeared to apply to this situation. But I continued to work on it with as much time as I could allow what with school, chores and play of course.
Until I could get this thing settled I had no desire to go to Charlotte’s to play, so that gave me a little extra time. My next task was to use what I had and make it work, as quickly as possible.
As I saw it there were two (2) requirements in place. I had to tell the truth and I had to “say something nice” so I worked on a few lines which included both.
I practiced and tested lines like “Thank you for being a big ugly, mean boy”, “please, stay inside of your house and never come out again” and "I’ll try to be nice if you will”. None of these seemed to qualify, it was time to just do it, get it over with and move on to the next day of play.
I remember, I went on wobbly “rubber legs”. I remember seeing Bundy, the rest of “the boys” weren’t home. But I do not remember the actual words I spoke. Looking back it must have been one of these “traumatic times” when you mind locks up and you can’t remember a thing.
Fact is once the apology was done in what must have been a reasonable amount of kind words and the report was made to Momie Nell, my problems became considerably less.
I found that I had gained free passage on the sidewalk in front of the Trisdale house so I could go and play at Charlotte’s anytime I wanted without premeditated routing and I took good advantage of that.
Later in life realized that my Grandmother’s advice in handling these bullies had set my course for handling life’s seemingly insurmountable problems, facing the challenges of life, and using appropriate nice, true words for stressful circumstances.
My Grandmother’s advice became forever logged into my head, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.
All rights owned by Brenda K. Blakely 2004 and available for use by permission. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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